We Are Proud to Present, theatre review

Bush Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

The full title of Jackie Sibblies Drury's inventive and challenging play is We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the  German Sudwestafrika Between the Years 1884-1915

The conceit is that we are watching a group of young actors (three white, three black) attempt to devise a piece about the little-known extermination of 80 per cent of the indigenous Herero tribe by the German colonists. 

As the performers squabble over how best to dramatise this horrific episode, the initial mood of affectionate satire at their well-intentioned but self-absorbed “process” gradually darkens in Gbolahan Obisesan's taut, excellently acted production. 

Uncomfortable questions are thrown up about colour and the victor's version of the past and who has the right to tell which story. 

You could  argue that the plight of the Hereros gets unduly upstaged by the mounting dissension within the troupe but that seems to exemplify Drury's historiographical point and it fuels the anger of the most rebellious of the performers (strikingly played by Kingsley Ben-Adir).  The implied parallels in the disturbing climax and the long-held accusatory silence afterwards feel to me, though, not exactly unconvincing but dramatically forced.

To 12 April; 020 8743 5050